|My Father and his Khakis, Windjammers, Camden, Maine,1964|
The quintessential pair of pants, for men or women, are of course khakis.
Vendors, knowing "khaki" is often referred to as a color, now use the term "chinos" which are offered in various shades of Khaki. Technically, however, khaki refers to either the style of trousers originally worn by British Troops in India or the color.
Buying any kind of pants is always a more personal purchase than a sweater or a shirt. The fit is much trickier to get right. Add to that the constant tweaking or outright discontinuation of styles by vendors, and finding good khakis is a continual challenge.
Given that, here are some rules to consider before even trying on a pair:
- No pleats. (Never mind how they look, they also add an immediate five pounds.)
- Straight leg, never boot-cut (or low-rise, obviously).
- Cuffed or uncuffed (with a one to a one and a half inch hem), but not a "jean hem."
- Not too dark. Stone is fine for women, Light Khaki, Field Khaki or Khaki is good for all. Dark Khaki or British Khaki is never good for pants (and don't even think about Olive).
- On-seam pockets in the front (which need to be deep enough) and two button through pockets in the back (men's and women's).
- Avoid cropped versions for women; they seldom look right.
- Always 100% cotton twill; never a thread of polyester. (Cotton canvas, following these guidelines, can qualify.)
- No elastic in the waist.
- Stay away from "wrinkle resistant" versions. They wear prematurely at the bottom of the hem.
- No cargo pockets.
Finally, one might need flannel-lined khakis. They are perfect for New England winters. And again, they are easy to find for men, but quite difficult for women.
Note: I received this kind email on August 11, 2010:
I enjoyed reading your feature on classic khakis. I feel you outlined perfectly the essentials of a great pair of khakis. I really appreciate you referring your readers to Jack Donnelly as a classic khaki.